ARMAGEDDON NEW ZEALAND INTERVIEW

October, 2008

 

ANZ: I’ve read you minored in theatre while at school. What motivated you to get into theatre in the first place?

DJ:I was such an awkward child, growing up, and other kids can be cruel when you are a little different.  So here I was a tall, skinny, long-necked kid who others called "Ostrich", "Giraffe", or simply "Skinny Bones Jones".  So I think as a survival tactic, I developed a sense of humor, so I could dictate when I was to be laughed at.  This ended up making me quite popular at school, being the funny guy, yet I wasn't the one everyone called regarding weekend plans.  Meanwhile, I would go home and the TV became my best friend.  Sitcoms and variety shows were my favorites, like The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie ... I got lost in all the laughs, the musical numbers, comedy sketches, and how a family could work out all their problems in a half hour!!  That world in the television was a world I needed to be a part of.  I started on the high school stage, any chance I could get.  Plays, variety shows, musicals, even silly pep rally skits.  I became "that kid" who was in everything there.  Then on to Ball State University in Muncie Indiana where I minored in Theatre with a major in Radio/TV Broadcasting.

 

ANZ: Miming & contortionism seems to be an unusual route to take in the performing arts. What about miming and contortionism appealed to you? How have these forms of acting translated into your current career?

DJ: In college, I did get into the mime troupe called "Mime Over Matter" which brought with it some traditional white-face make-up and got me very in touch with entertaining and creating stories with my body ... becoming aware of how much communicating we do that is non-verbal.  As for the contortion thing, I just have very flexible legs that can go behind my head, and I never had any idea how much that would come in handy for funny sight gags in some of my TV commercials, sit-com guest starring roles, and a few movies like Batman Returns where I played the bendy 'Thin Clown', and The Time Machine in which I was the squatty lead 'Spy Morlock'.

 

ANZ: What made you want to leave  Indiana  and go to LA? How did you support yourself and what were your first acting gigs?

DJ: Any young person living in Indiana with stars in his eyes would feel the need to move to where the real show business is, so Los Angeles had been beckoning me for some time. 

In March of 1985, at age 24, having been married just less than a year, the lovely Mrs. Laurie and I packed up and moved to L.A. for me to take a job as a management trainee at a bank here.  It was an awful fit for me!!  Can you imagine me wearing a tie with a wad of important keys in my hand, learning to supervise tellers!?!?!  Well, after 8 months, neither could the bank.  They fired me, as they should have!  My heart was nowhere near that bank.  But the real reason for taking that job was to get us geographically set up in Los Angeles for me to transition into film/TV work eventually.  I just didn't realize that "eventually" would come so quickly!  Getting unemployment checks for the first 6 months, and Mrs. Laurie working as a receptionist, we were able to squeak by as I looked into acting classes for the camera, and what might follow.  I landed in a TV commercial workshop taught by the head of the Wilhelmina Talent Agency at the time, Philip Karr.  After my 2nd class, he gave me his card and asked me to call his office regarding representation.  So I started going out on commercial auditions, and it took me 6 months to land my first paying gig ... a Southwest Airlines commercial where I played a dancing mummy.  Yep, wrapped head to toe in dirty bandages, and I thought I was the hugest TV star ever!

 

ANZ: How did you break into television and film and how was it different than what you had been used to?

DJ: Over the years, I have had many roles that I thought would put me on the map, and surely, life would be breezy afterward.  Like soon after that first commercial booking,  I was hired as the crescent moon-headed singing fellow for 27 McDonald's commercials, Mac Tonight.  Because of this campaign, I was marked as that tall, skinny guy who moves well, wears lots of costuming or make-up, and doesn't complain.  That got my name tossed around the creature effects make-up shops in Hollywood.  So I would be mentioned when certain roles came up requiring a certain look that needed a performer who could pull it off.  Like Billy the goofy zombie in the now-classic Halloween movie Hocus Pocus.  Or when my guest star role as the lead 'Gentleman' on Buffy The Vampire Slayer's" HUSH episode was reported in TV GUIDE as the "scariest villain the show has ever had".  What makes any role on camera a little different that the stage performing I had been used to back home in Indiana, is the art of subtlety.  On stage I needed to emote to the back row, and on camera, lifting your eyebrows can be too much.

 

ANZ: I’ve heard you performed as “Charlie the Cardinal” at  Ball   State   University . What motivated you to take on the mascot role? Many roles you take on now seem to involve some sort of mask. Why do you gravitate toward these “masked” roles? What do they offer you that roles, which expose your physical identity, do not?

DJ: I was the mascot "Charlie Cardinal" for 2 basketball seasons there.  Yep, big red fuzzy bird suit with yellow tights and big floppy feet.  My first foray into wearing a hot, heavy suit, while trying to make it look energetic and fun.  I wanted to take on this role for the school because I saw the mascot at a basketball game the year before, and thought what potential the character had to help make these events more of a show.  The mime performer in me couldn't wait to make that cardinal come alive like never before. 

 

ANZ: You seem to have accumulated a robust filmography over the years, but because of the nature of your masked roles, your face isn’t as recognizable as other actors. What are the benefits and disadvantages of your situation?

DJ: I have enjoyed being able to show up at an event where I'm announced and can act like I'm a movie star that day, then the next morning go into Starbucks with grungy sweats and no shower, with no one knowing who I am.  I have been very content with both lives happening at once.

 

ANZ: How does playing a role, like in Adaptation, where you are physically recognizable differ from playing a masked one? How must your style of acting change?

DJ: I look at acting as simply acting.  All actors have to go through make-up, hair, and wardrobe before the cameras roll, and sometimes it takes a little longer.  Whether I'm guest starring on a TV show in a t-shirt and jeans, or doing a movie in hoof feet and horns on my head, I still need to get to the heart and soul of that character.  To find out what makes him tick, to know his intentions, what he wants, what he's afraid of, all of that.   Heavily made-up or costumed characters do need a bit more athletic endurance to pull off, so you just find that organic space in which that fantasy character lives, and you go live there and let him take over.  The difference between lots of make-up and not, would be the same way you might feel walking out of your house wearing a sweater, or walking out of your house in a Speedo.  In one, you don't really worry what the neighbors might think, and in the other, you do ... until you get to the pool and realize you don't look half bad in a bathing suit.

 

ANZ: I’ve read that you often work with Guillermo del Toro. What is it about him and his work that keeps bringing you back?

DJ: I was referred to him to play one of his giant bug guys (Long John #2) during the re-shoots of his first big American studio film Mimic in 1997.  He knew I had worked under lots of prosthetic make-ups before, and during lunch on my second day, he asked me all kinds of questions about make-up artists and creature shops that I had worked with before.  This is where he became a little boy with wonder in his face as it lit up, all excited to talk about monsters.  He asked for my card, and when he was looking to cast Abe Sapien in Hellboy five years later, Mike Elizalde, Steve Wang, and Jose Fernandez from Spectral Motion sat back with Guillermo admiring the approved sculpture of the character and said, "That looks like Doug Jones", as they had all worked with me before.  That's when Guillermo said, "Doug Jones ... I know Doug Jones!", and he pulled my card out of his wallet.  Hellboy is where we artistically bonded, understanding his directing style, while he understood my acting style.  Then when he was in pre-production for Pan's Labyrinth, I received an e-mail from him in Spain, telling me to read the script, and get back to him immediately, as no one else could play Pan the Faun but me.  Talk about humbling.  And when I realized the film was to be in Spanish, I was terrified.  And then he tossed in The Pale Man.  It was during this film that my respect for him as a true visionary and a master storyteller deepened.  He now calls me "the Fred Astaire of monsters", which is such a compliment coming from a horror/sci-fi/comic book fan like him.  And as for me, if he asked me to take a crap on film, I will take that crap, fully trusting that he is the one man who can turn it into art, and we'll be discussing it after next year's Oscars.

 

ANZ: I’ve also read that you’ve been in music videos with Madonna and Marilyn Manson. Can you explain your experiences working with these performers and how performing in a music video is different than other media?

DJ: Music videos are a different animal.  One that I like.  It seems to be more about visual imagery, and finding graphic moments that help mark a song in our minds, even if there is somewhat of a storyline to the video.  I was in a quick snippet of Madonna's "Bedtime Story" video, sitting on a bench in a pond of water that came up to my ankles with a tall, skinny woman.  Both of us had our heads replaced with hand mirrors holding Madonna's image on them as she sang.  So I never met her, unfortunately.  Marilyn Manson was a quick meeting during a one day shoot for his "I don't like the drugs, but the drugs like me" video.  I played a sad, big-eyed fellow in the future who was this way from watching too much TV.  But I think my favorite was working on a 3 day shoot with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their "Soul To Squeeze" video.  I was a contortionist in a 1930's traveling side show of freaks with the late Chris Farley as our ringmaster.  The guys in the band were so genuine, creative, and fun to work with.

 

ANZ: What were your favorite films, shows, commercials, videos, etc. that you’ve performed in?

DJ: Personal highlights for me under lots of make up would include playing Billy the zombie from Hocus Pocus, as I loved his semi-scary, but ultimately good guy goofiness, and working with Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker was delightful.  I loved playing Number Seven, Jon Lovitz's robot butler in the very silly romp, Benchwarmers ... another physical triumph making people believe I really was a machine, and I had the pleasure of creating his voice, as well.  Yee in Warriors of Virtue was also such fun for me, as this was a kid-friendly story told with very imaginative direction from Ronny Yu.  The Silver Surfer is a character that I just fell in love with from researching him in the comic books.  A true hero's heart full of sacrifice, conflict, angst, and grace.  Abe from Hellboy is one that I truly love, and has become a part of the family now.  I love his intellect, his dry humor, his sense of calm, and his brotherly relationship with Hellboy.  Pan was just delicious for me to play, as I got to toy with good and evil, with an ambiguous wisdom that helped push little Ofelia's story forward.  And the Pale Man was simply the most terrifying character I've ever played, with the "Buffy" Gentleman being a close second.

As far as my own face showing, I so enjoyed crawling into the skin of Len, a backwoods hillbilly with a small brain but a big heart full of wisdom in Stalled.  Our director, Stefan Haves is a brilliantly sick mind who I'd like to work with again where he has creative control.  I also loved playing Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ... even on a killing spree, he had a sadness about him that I found sympathy with, as he was under the control of the evil Dr. Caligari.  I have also been happy with a few guest roles on TV ... a high stakes poker player, Grinder, with an understated demeanor on C.S.I. ;  a sassy, but not too nice gay bathhouse manager, Micah, who's wreckless character helped make a very serious point on The Guardian ;  and my favorite TV appearance ever has to be last season on Criminal Minds as a tweeked out druggie from the mountains of Tennessee, Domino Thacker, who is so unpleasant, yet you want to hug him at the same time.

 

ANZ: I’ve read you’re working on a bunch of projects right now, such as the Silver SurferLegion and My Name is Jerry. How are those projects going and how do they differ from (or how are they similar to) your past work?

DJ: Legion with Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, and Tyrese Gibson is completed, and we can be looking for that one sometime in 2009.  I play an 'Ice Cream Man' in this, and it is a combination of me with my real face, but when I step out of my ice cream truck, you realize something isn't quite right with me, and that where some CG and make-up effects will come into play as the scene progresses and I morph into something a little scarier. 

My Name Is Jerry is also completed filming and in the editing phase now.  This one is very close to my heart.  I play 'Jerry' in a sweet story of a middle aged average boring guy coming to terms with his identity, and needing some re-invention.  This one will be doing the film festival circuit in 2009, as we hope to get some critical acceptance with it before distribution. 

Quarantine just opened in cinemas in the USA, and I have a special cameo at the very end of it -- My character's name in the credits? ... 'Thin Infected Man'. 

I also have a cameo in a super hero spoof movie called Super Capers in which I play a knock-off of Agent Smith from The Matrix, also with hopes of distribution in 2009. 

I am also just starting a crimeaction movie called Angel Of Death with Zoe Bell, and I'm playing a mafia doctor hopped up on heroine.  This one is interesting, as it will be released on the internet first as a 10 part webisode series for SONY before it's re-cut into a full feature DVD release.  How all of the above differ from my past work is that they are mostly all my own face in either starring roles or in special cameo moments that are pivotal. 

I'm really thankful that so many directors are coming to me for these kinds of roles now with the desire to let the fan base see my real face more.  As for a Silver Surfer movie, your guess is as good as mine.  That's why IMDb has it listed as "rumored" by my name.  As is standard for a character with franchise potential, I signed a 3 picture deal with the studio, so they have the option to use me for 2 more films.  The last I heard was that J. Michael Straczinsky (sp?) has written a Silver Surfer solo movie that the studio has now had for a year and a half.  I would love to re-visit this character with all of his valor and conflicted heroism, but what happens from here is anyone's guess.

 

ANZ: What drew you to the Armageddon Festival in  New Zealand  and what was your role there?

DJ: I have absolutely loved getting around the world to comic book, horror, and sci-fi fan conventions.  This is a venue where the true fans of movies and I get to meet each other in a fun, safe environment.  Without these film and TV enthusiasts, I wouldn't have a job, and I so relish the chance to get around and hug on them to say thank you.  I was at the Armageddon Festival in Wellington last year, and this year will be attending the one in Auckland.  I am a sponge for the Kiwi Love!!!!  Seriously, the casual, warm vibe of the people I've met in New Zealand will always keep me coming back.

 

Copyright © 2008 Doug Jones. All rights reserved.

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